Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation

This Summer, find something that stands out.

Check out the three IntroSems being offered this summer, and apply in the IntroSems' VCA.

Main content start

MUSIC 34N: Performing America: The Broadway Musical

Outside of the Broadway theater for Hamilton. Sudan Ouyang on Unsplash

Meet the Instructor | General Education Requirements

Course Description

The Broadway musical has remained in constant dialogue with American culture at large for the last 100 years. Since the beginning, the popular musical theater centered around Broadway and Times Square merged influences from European operetta, African-American ragtime and jazz, patriotic marches, "Tin Pan Alley," vaudeville, and immigrant cultures. This seminar looks at how the themes, characters, stories, and above all the songs of the Broadway musical continue to reflect ideas of American identity and to negotiate themes of race, class, gender, and sexual identity both playfully and seriously. Intersections with blues and jazz, the movies, genres of rock and pop, and contemporary media are also important to this story.

We look at representative songs and “song types” (Opening Numbers, “I want” songs, Ballads, Anthems, Torch Songs, List Songs, etc.) from influential shows ranging from Showboat, Oklahoma!, West Side Story, Funny Girl, Company and A Chorus Line to Wicked, Hairspray, Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, Jagged Little Pill and A Strange Loop. How has the role of songwriters changed since the "musical comedy" era of Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter and the so-called "golden age" of Rodgers and Hammerstein? How have the roles of director, choreographer, producer, marketing and media gained new prominence? What has been the impact of the European "mega-musical," Disney musicals, television (High School Musical, Glee, Smash)? How do media platforms such as YouTube and TikTok affect the way musicals are made and seen today? How has Broadway and musical theater emerged from the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, and what changes have resulted?

Activities include individual and small-group presentations on songs, shows, themes; informal in-class performance; online discussion of repertoire; attendance at on-campus performances and touring Broadway productions (BroadwaySF).

General Education Requirements

Meet the Instructor

Thomas Grey

Thomas Grey

"As a graduate student and then as professor of music I worked primarily in the areas of opera and European instrumental music from the Classical and Romantic periods. For a long time I secretly thought about getting to know the Broadway musical theater canon, recalling how much I’d liked working as accompanist and music director for some shows back in high school. Soon after I started collecting cast albums on my iPod in 2010, I finally saw my first Broadway show in March 2011, The Book of Mormon (during its second week of previews). I've been hooked ever since. I continue to enjoy learning more about new Broadway shows as well as regional and school productions from incoming frosh classes and other Stanford students.”

More News Topics